The Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time – 23 August 2020
Lectionary Readings: Isa 22:19-23; Ps 138:1-8; Rom 11:33-36; Matt 16:13-20
Theme: “Who do YOU say that I am?”
Who do THEY say that I am? (Matt 16:13). This week’s Gospel from Matthew poses this question from Jesus to his disciples. They reply with names of prophetic people who have preceded him. Then Jesus asks the question that is for each one of us to answer throughout our lifetime: “And you, who do YOU say that I am?” Peter’s response is one that like us, he will slowly come to fully understand: You are the Christ, the firstborn of the living God. His response indicates a close relationship between Jesus and his Abba. Jesus calls Simon kepa meaning rock in Aramaic. He says you are kepa, Peter, and on this rock I will build my church. (It is only here and in Matt 18:17 that the word church is used in the Gospels.) Jesus is the long awaited messiah but not the one that they expected. He does not come to put down the Roman rule and oppression. Rather, Jesus brings to them a messiahship of compassion, justice, love for the least, service, mercy and deep peace. It is only after the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus that his full identity is revealed to his followers.
The reading from Isaiah speaks of the indictment against an unjust steward, Shebna, in the court of King Hezekiah. Eliakim, son of the High Priest, Hilkiah, is given authority in the royal palace. This is seen as a divinely given authority and three images explain his new role: Eliakim is called “father” of the people and will participate in governing the southern kingdom as part of the Davidic dynasty; he will be keeper of the key of the House of David which allows entrance and access to the palace and the king; and third, he will be like a tent peg: one who will see to the safekeeping of all those in his care. He has the honor of being a wise parent/leader, a careful guardian, and a living symbol of stability. This passage prefigures the role of Peter who is given the keys to the kingdom of heaven. From ancient times we see here a connection for those in leadership positions today in church and in society. These values seem timeless.
Psalm 138 that follows the Isaiah reading brings a song of praise for the kindness and strength that God gives to the people in this time of relative security. God’s kindness endures forever, even in times of trouble and catastrophe. This is a reminder that we are “the face of God” in our world today. The Letter of Paul to the Romans reflects his understanding that God’s salvation extends to ALL peoples of the earth. God’s love and care is totally inclusive. Paul struggles as we may also in attempting to understand the mystery of the wonders of God.
The Letter of Paul to the Romans reflects his understanding that God’s salvation extends to ALL peoples of the earth. God’s love and care is totally inclusive. Paul struggles as we may also in attempting to understand the mysteryof the wonders of God.
For Reflection and Discussion: It is said that St. Francis of Assisi prayed during the night: “Who are you my God? And who am I?” How we respond identifies us and our life as Christians. It shapes our own identity and our parish identity. It is a challenge to define who we are. The Spirit gives us all the gifts we need and is always with us. How do you respond at this time in your journey to “and who do YOU say I am?” Is your answer always the same or does it differ with your life experiences and deeper understandings of who God is for you?
Bibliography: McKenzie, J.L. Dictionary of the Bible (New York: 1965).
This week’s Sunday Liturgy Commentary was prepared by
Mary Louise Chesley-Cora, USA, Bat Kol Alumna 2001